walking the 5k

Terry and I walked the Mushroom Mardi Gras 5k on Saturday. This was no small matter.

MushroomMardiGrasbibSaturday is my one day for sleeping in. And I really love taking advantage of this time. To get to the race location, get parked, and get registered for the 8:05 start (the 10k began at 8:00), we had to get out of bed at 6:15. On a Saturday.

But we had both registered in advance and paid our money. We had both been training, and I had done two walks in excess of 5k over the past month. So we did it. We were near the end of the pack, but that was fine. It was a nice walk along a pleasant trail, and we enjoyed it.

There is something rewarding about making a commitment and following through.

MushroomMardiGrasMushroomMardiGrasTerry


Tacomania

This place has been around for a while, but I haven’t written about it. Tacomania has a few locations in the South Bay, but the Gilroy location only opened up last fall. They moved into an old building that had been a variety of fast food places. They took a taco trailer, put an awning over it, and made it part of the building. I believe it was the same trailer that had been selling tacos at various locations around town. If not, the fact that the trailer disappeared at the same time they started working on this place is a very strange coincidence indeed.

In any case, they did a nice job of remodeling the interior. Nothing fancy — simple and plain, but comfortable. You go inside and place your order at the counter. The order is transmitted to the trailer, so you go outside to wait for it. When it’s ready the cook rings one of those old-fashioned front desk bells and hands you your order.

Tacomanina doesn’t work for Terry, as they rely heavily on onion and cilantro. For me, though, it’s a nice lunch when I’m getting it on my own.


Pineapple Village

I have written about the Chinese Fast Food place near us, between our grocery store and our favorite Mexican restaurant. After changing hands the new owners added a short menu of entrée and rice dishes in addition to the offerings on the hot table. They were quite good. In fact the dishes rivaled our late, lamented Thai restaurant. That obviously didn’t work, though, because one day I walked in and they had a completely new menu. It smacked of the work of a consultant, or at least some kind of pre-packaged commercial offering. That didn’t work either, because they closed shortly thereafter.

The location stayed vacant for a while, and then late last summer work began inside. We couldn’t see what they were doing because the windows were papered over, but eventually a permanent lighted sign that said Pineapple Village went up. That’s how things stayed throughout the winter and into the spring.

Finally they opened their doors in April. They opened on a Thursday and we went in for lunch on Friday. We were quite impressed. They offer a bento plate for lunch. It includes appetizer, salad, rice, and entrée, beautifully arranged on a square black plate. The flavors are marvelous. They just pop. We’ve been back again for lunch since then and have gotten takeout for Friday dinner.

We’re adding Pineapple Village to our rotation.


Easter and tragedy

There was a suicide on our block on Easter.

Under any circumstances a suicide is a tragedy. All the more so on Easter. What further amplified that for me was that Fr. Phil in his Easter sermon, before getting back to the  resurrection of Jesus, told us “Death is not a rare event in this world.” I wasn’t expecting immediate confirmation of that.

After church I spent a couple of hours in the front yard pruning roses and generally cleaning up the yard. I took a shower and got cleaned up and Terry picked up lunch. I then pulled out my laptop to make some additions to my recipe database. I heard sirens, and thought it was sad that there would be sirens on Easter. I didn’t realize that the vehicles running those sirens were headed for our street.

A while later Terry told me that there was a suicide at the house two doors down. I have written about that house before. The husband has long had a serious alcohol abuse problems to the point where he cannot work I have not seen him in ages. His wife, in order to make ends meet, takes in boarders. Those boarders, I have long observed in my biased and not terribly charitable perspective, tend towards the unsavory type and seem to mostly be part of the recovery community.

It seems that there was a husband and wife couple living there whose responsibilities included taking care of the back yard. As Terry heard it, the husband was away overnight, hadn’t done his yard work, the owner of the home got mad, and the wife took an overdose. Certainly overdosing on account of yard work not done points to far deeper and more serious problems, for which this was perhaps merely the tipping point. In fact there is no way to prove cause and effect. Maybe the angry reaction and the overdose were two sequential but unrelated events.

The actual reason for the overdose doesn’t matter. There was a suicide on our block on Easter.

However you look at it, that is a tragedy.


radio matters

When I was in Claremont in the mid-1970s, the region’s classical radio station was KFAC. It was a radio station people loved to complain about. The pieces played were too light. Or they played only a single movement of a symphony. Or why did a classical station need to broadcast a syndicated newscast? Of course it would have been easy enough (through good chunks of the day) to turn the dial to the public station KUSC for classical music, but it was, after all, fun to complain.

In 1989, long after I left Claremont, KFAC dropped the classical format and immediately Saul Levine switched his KKGO from jazz to classical. It had, in fact, started out as a classical station. Levine has been in the classical music business in one form or another ever since. In 2007 he switched KKGO to country and moved classical to the 1260 AM frequency he owned. He has had his K-Mozart (KMZT) brand on various frequencies and locations over the past several years. For a short time it was on a relatively weak AM signal in San Francisco.

When Terry and I were in Monterey for our anniversary in March I was scanning the dial on the radio at the hotel to see what kind of listening we might have for the evening. I came across two classical stations, which surprised me, since I didn’t think there was a broadcast FM classical station in Monterey after KBOQ dropped the format. There is KAZU HD2, which is available online or if you have an HD radio, but I wasn’t aware of anything via standard FM broadcast. It turns out that Levine had recently bought the 95.1 and 97.9 frequencies in Salinas/Monterey and they were broadcasting KMZT. Very cool, since, as I discovered when we got home, I can get one or the other in my car radio around town in Gilroy.

InternetRadioI also added KMZT to my internet radio. In fact I booted the San Francisco classical station KDFC off the one-touch buttons in favor of KMZT, and relegated it to my menu list. I felt a bit guilty about that, since KDFC has been around forever and I’ve been a member since they made the switch from commercial to non-commercial in 2011. I also felt a bit guilty about moving KAZU HD2 lower down in my one-touch list and listening more to KMZT.

I’m not sure, though, why I should feel guilty. KDFC tends to do the same thing that we accused KFAC of in the 1970s – being a little too light in their programming choices. As for KAZU, they simply broadcast the NPR classical service out of Minneapolis. I assume, though I don’t know, that KMZT is programmed out of Los Angeles. So if I enjoy it the most, why not keep tuned there.

We will, however, continue to listed to KAZU HD2 on Sunday evenings. I love Valerie Kahler’s sexy voice, and I enjoy her musical selections, which often trend in the direction of sacred music.

The nice thing is that I have plenty of choices when it comes to classical music.


wondering if the match will work

Our local paper, the Gilroy Dispatch, has been through a few ownership changes since we arrived in Gilroy nearly seventeen years ago. But in its most recent incarnation under Main Street Media it was for the most part locally controlled and seemed pretty stable. They have been, to my mind, doing a decent if not a stellar job.

DispatchSo I was surprised when The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club blog reported that Metro Newspapers in San Jose was buying the Gilroy Dispatch and its sister papers in Morgan Hill, Hollister, and Santa Cruz.

I know Metro. I was the first classified advertising manager there when they were a fledgling new alternative newsweekly in 1985. I believe Metro was three months old when I started there. I worked for the publisher, David Cohen, who later split with his partner, Dan Pulcrano, to manage the community newspapers that the company had bought. But Dan was then, has been, and still is at Metro. He was quoted in the blog article and in the story on the Dispatch Web site. The accompanying photo shows less gray hair than I might have expected.

The Gilroy Dispatch is not Metro. I have been reading the former for almost seventeen years. I worked at the latter for one Metromiserable, stomach-churning year before a MFCC shaman investor in Metro in a therapy session (figuratively) waved one hand above and to the right of my eyes while he (metaphorically) punched me in that churning gut with the other fist and thereby made clear to me that I needed to get the hell out of Dodge, or rather out of the Metro office on South First Street in San Jose, next door to what was in those days the Pussycat Theater.

But I digress. Metro is a classic alternative newsweekly. The Gilroy Dispatch is a local community newspaper. I don’t see the fit. Pulcrano says he has experience running community newspapers, which he does, in the form of the Los Gatos Weekly. But unless Dan has changed considerably since 1985, I suspect his heart lies with the alternative news weekly approach.

We’ll see how it works out.


a tale of two markets

I enjoy writing, as you know, about Rocca’s, our local, family owned market. One thing I really appreciate that is when I ask for a meat selection of a certain weight, they come very close to what I ask for.

We’ve started buying chopped, marinated meat at the nearby Mi Pueblo, an upscale Latino grocery chain. Those meats are delicious and make yummy tacos (where I bake my own taco shells, of course). They are not as clear on the concept of weight as is Rocca’s. I was in there the other day asking for half a pound of pastor meat, that is marinated pork. The butcher started out with a pound and a half. He scaled it back to 0.9 pounds. I said close enough. The same was true over in the service deli with the guacamole ranchero. I got twice as much as I asked for. I don’t know if this is policy, a language problem, or just sloppiness. The thing is, it’s OK. I have my FoodSaver. I simply sealed up and froze what we didn’t use for our original meal. It will make a tasty, easy dinner later on.

We appreciate Mi Pueblo for their specialty products, but Rocca’s remains our go-to market for its full-service meat counter.


they’re back and better

It’s been a long time since Terry and I had lunch at our local salad bar restaurant. They’re the ones that were long known and highly regarded as Fresh Choice, went through some financial difficulties, closed most of their locations and reopened some of them as California Fresh. The initial reviews were not encouraging.

Terry and I ate there some months back after seeing slightly more encouraging comments. The salad bar was passable, but the soups were actually somewhat better than before. We were not impressed enough to add them to our regular rotation, but I remained on their email distribution. A couple of weeks ago I received an email that 1) said they were lowering their price for lunch, 2) included an additional $1.50 off coupon, and 3) told us that they were returning to the Fresh Choice name.

Given all that we decided to give them another shot. We ventured over there on President’s Day last week. We were pleased. The salad bar was fully stocked and fresh. There was a variety of soup. Terry had the albondigas soup and I had the clam chowder. I thought the clam chowder was excellent. Terry loved the albondigas, and I enjoyed the taste she gave me. I thought their pizza was better than ever. Terry liked the mac and cheese. Neither of us had room for the double chocolate brownies.

So they seem to be back and doing well. I’m not sure what to call them. The sign on the building still says Fresh Choice. That had never changed. The sign over the cash register, the receipt, and those little Be Right Back/All Done cards on the tables all said California Fresh. The posters in the window announcing the new lunch price said Fresh Choice.

Whatever their name, we’re happy to see them offering quality food once again. And we were glad to see them as busy as they were.


most things to many people

I’ve written about how we enjoy our local family owned market, Rocca’s. The full-service meat counter means that we rarely buy meat at the supermarket any longer. I was thinking about the various constituencies that Rocca’s serves, based on my observations while shopping.

  • There are people like Terry and me, the foodies. We like Tom Rocca’s quality cuts of meat which we can get in whatever amount we need. There is Poppy’s fresh seafood. There’s the cheeses, sliced to order. They carry locally made Frantoio Grove olive oil and local honey. And, of course, the wine department curated by Dan Rocca with his selection of  local wines.
  • There’s the guys who are serious about their grillin’. Perhaps they don’t do a lot in the kitchen, I don’t know, but I imagine they know their way around the gas grill. They come into Rocca’s knowing they have the best meat.
  • There’s the folks from the surrounding neighborhood or driving down Monterey highway for whom Rocca’s is the convenient spot for their beer and junk food.

For us, we appreciate Rocca’s for the first point. (And to a lesser extent, the second.)

Roccas


shrinking menus

There are a handful of restaurants where Terry and I will go out to eat occasionally, most often for Sunday lupper (late lunch/early supper). Two of them were Black Bear Diner and Mimi’s. Both serve versions of comfort food. As you would expect from “Diner” in the name, Black Bear serves things like hamburgers and fried chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. Mimi’s, with its New Orleans-themed décor, serves comfort food in the form of dishes like chicken pot pie and potato soup. We’ve always enjoyed both spots.

Both restaurants were known for their extensive menus. Both made a similar change recently. On our most recent visit to each, we discovered those extensive menus had been pared back considerably. No doubt there were sound economic reasons for these decisions, but the changes disappointed both of us. Black Bear still had the standby burgers, but at Mimi’s I was hard-pressed to find something I especially wanted. I settled on the crepes, something I would almost never choose when dining out. I will say unequivocally that Terry’s homemade creations have nothing to fear from Mimi’s when it comes to crepes.

Both places are getting scratched off our list.